In a landmark judgment on a century-old religious row, the Indian Supreme Court today cleared the way for the construction of a Ram temple at the disputed land in Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh by allotting the plot to a Hindu outfit. The SC also ordered allotment of a "prominent" alternative site of five acres to Muslims to build a mosque.
In the most politically sensitive and anticipated judgements in India's history, the bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi has sought to put an end to the dispute that has often torn the secular and social fabric of the nation. Our New Delhi correspondent reports.
The five-membered Constitution bench of the apex court gave the disputed Ayodhya land to Hindu entity Ramjanmabhoomi Trust and ordered that an alternative piece of land, which lies in a "suitable" and "prominent" place in Ayodhya be given to Muslims to build a mosque.
The judgment was read by Ranjan Gogoi this morning. The bench also comprised Justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer.
It said the possession of the disputed 2.77 acre land rights will be handed over to Ram Lalla, who is one of the three litigants in the case. The possession however will remain with the Indian government.
The bench said Hindu litigants were able to establish their case that they were in possession of the outer courtyard at the site in Ayodhya. It added that the Muslim side was unable to prove their exclusive possession of the inner courtyard.
The apex court said the mosque should be constructed at a "prominent site" and a trust should be formed within three months for the construction of the temple at the site many Hindus believe Lord Ram was born.
Hindu groups say the Babri mosque at the disputed land in Ayodhay was built atop Lord Ram’s birthplace.
The Babri mosque was destroyed by Hindu activists on December 6, 1992, sparking riots across India that left at least 2,000 people dead.
The top court ruling today is likely to shape the course of Indian politics given that Ram temple construction at the disputed site in Ayodhya has been one of three ideological pillars of Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party, the other two being abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution that gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir and uniform civil code for all religious communities. Article 370 was scrapped by the Modi government on August 5 this year.
All India Muslim Personal Law Board has expressed dissatisfaction with the apex court verdict and said a final decision may be taken on whether to go for a review of the ruling of the Constitution bench.
BJP President Amit Shah welcomed the Supreme Court ruling saying it would give finality to a decades-old dispute and accept the ruling with equanimity and magnanimity.
On the other hand, the Sunni Waqf Board said it will seek a review of the judgment.
"The Ayodhya verdict has a lot of contradictions. We will seek a review as we are not satisfied with the verdict," the board's lawyer Zafaryab Jilani said. But he appealed to all people to maintain peace and not protest.
Ahead of the Supreme Court ruling today on an emotive issue, security across India was heightened with deployment of thousands of police, paramilitary and anti-riot personnel and schools and colleges in several states shut till Monday as a precautionary measure to guard against communal violence that could break out following the verdict.
Although law and order are a state executive subject, Justice Gogoi himself had held a meeting with Uttar Pradesh’s top officials yesterday possibly to prevent a repeat of the violence that had followed the demolition of the Babri mosque in 1992.
A host of senior BJP leaders and leaders of other entities are facing trial in Uttar Pradesh in connection with the Babri mosque demolition.
Hours before the apex court ruling, Modi called for calm in a Twitter post on Friday night and underlined that the judgement “will not be anyone’s loss or victory.”
The Supreme Court gave the ruling after a 40-day day-to-day hearing on the dispute starting in August this year.
The apex court judgement came on a batch of petitions that had challenged the Allahabad High Court in 2010 when the disputed land on which the now-demolished Babri mosque once stood divided the plot among Hindu and Muslim entities in 2:1 ratio.